Maleficent: Mistress of Evil: Joachim Rønning’s sequel organically expands the story of the first film and the world (in two directions), even as it keeps its themes unchanged; it’s once more a simple story, but the result is harmless and entertaining. It is refreshing that the most relevant sources of impulse are the female characters. Angelina Jolie finely projects the strength and danger her character calls for, but also her softer side; Elle Fanning is a charming presence (she has no chemistry whatsoever with Harris Dickinson, but the blame is in his lack of charm); Michelle Pfeiffer leans a bit too heavily in the villainy of her character, but a good bit of the problem comes from the too-simple writing. The film’s aesthetics are colorful and bubbly, with enticing creature design, complemented by the top-notch costume design of Ellen Mirojnick, and likewise strong production design by Patrick Tatopoulos.
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